A Little Shift In Perception

Time for another theory.

I think that I have to understand that what people say is their interpretation; it’s what they see. Obvious, I know, but bear with me. I’m revising a lot of counter-productive thinking patterns.

What someone else says is not necessarily the objective truth, particular when they are talking about the future (specifically, I’m thinking about when people make plans, commitments, etc.). A person can only provide their subjective view, really. And it is inherently flawed simply by virtue of human finitude. This doesn’t mean I ought to expect people to get things wrong, but I must understand, through and through, that it is quite possible they are wrong at least in part, that they have not entirely nailed down in perfect form the objective truth, that they, like I, see as though in a mirror darkly…and I must tailor my own perception/reception of what they say accordingly.

I think, I hope, that I have humility regarding my own perspective. That I recognise the limitations of my own perception, even if I am sometimes blind to the limitations themselves and how they affect me. I need to also understand the the perspective of others is equally humble – they may have a great deal they can teach me, knowledge and wisdom I do not posses and need, but if I pedestalise what someone else says, even with something as simple as future plans, then I take it out of its proper context.

And if I’ve learned anything from literature and history studies, it’s that taking things out of context is a very bad idea.

 

God, however, has a perfectly objective perspective. I am supposed to pedestalise what He says; His Word is intended to be regarded as objective Truth and therefore as reliable and formative.

At the same time, my own perspective is still subjective, and therefore my interpretation of what God says is innately humble: finite and imperfect and destined not to be formative, but to be subject to constant correction, forever and ever, amen.

Now, I’m pretty comfortable with that last paragraph, and I have been for a while. There are certain theological precepts which I hold to be true and foundational to my other beliefs, and ideally my actions as well, and others which have been revised, still others which are currently being revised or are pending further information before I even choose a stance. The pending pile is quite sizable, to be honest.

What I realised yesterday is that I tend to expect people to do their best to be like God. And not in a “Christians ought to be like Christ” sort of way in this instance. Rather, if someone says they will do X, I automatically expect they will do it. It is not just a matter of having high standards regarding someone’s word and their commitment and their trustworthiness; it’s a pattern of thinking that is so deeply ingrained in my mind that I often am not aware of the thoughts themselves, although I keenly feel the effects. I can feel myself getting my hopes up; I go right away into planning for and around such things; I believe them, and I immediately begin acting or preparing to act accordingly.

The only hiccup is…people are not God. Which means there is a horrible error in this thought-pattern which so often dominates my mind and resultant behaviour.

It would be so much better if I understood automatically that the things someone says, their stated intentions and plans, is their subjective perspective, their interpretation, their hopes based on what they want and what they know and what they feel at the time. But it is not concrete, absolute, objective fact as though it has already been lived; it is only fact about what they hope and want. Just as I have learned not to assume that everything an author or professor or mentor whom I appreciate and admire is accurate, and that disagreeing with certain aspects does not negate that which the person has gotten right, I am now gradually realising that not everything that comes out of someone’s mouth, however well-intentioned, is accurate objectively.

At least, I’m realising this in my mind. My emotions are, as usual, lagging behind significantly.

This is particularly relevant when it comes to stated plans.

I can subject myself to someone’s view as objective fact, I can start planning my day, my week, my year, my life around what they say they want/will do. And I can continue to be disappointed and frustrated by their finitude and periodic incapacity to do exactly as they say.

 

Or.

I can remind myself, manually for the time being, that they cannot predict the future. What they say is well-intentioned, likely from the heart, genuinely meant, but its feasibility, its reality, and its accuracy in terms of predicting what will happen is questionable until it is proven fact.These things are not realised yet; they are pending and subject to change, derailment, and success.

Human finitude. That might be the key to me grasping this, finally. Much to my Dom’s relief, I imagine, considering how long he’s tried to get me to realise the issue.

We can aim for it, work toward it, hope for it, but reliance needs to be…tempered. At least until it becomes concrete, realised, factual.

Lived.

Now, the question occurred to me too, should people be speaking with such certainty, particularly regarding future plans? I think perhaps not; partly this is based on the fact that it frustrates me and I’d rather people not promise me anything or plan anything with me at all than break or change what they said before; partly this is based on my desire for language that is as accurate as possible; and partly this is based on James 4:13-17:

‘Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.’ (emphasis mine)

But really, it doesn’t really matter. One, because whether or not people should, they do. And I’m going to need to learn to deal with it decently, or I will continue to spin my tires in an incredibly painful way. Two, even if people shouldn’t, it is not my prerogative to correct them. So let me just back away from that.

I do know that I am not at all happy about the idea of me speaking carelessly. Words matter immensely to me. This comes from my love of writing, particularly regarding theology, where word-choice is essential – shifts in nuance can have an incredible ripple effect, as I have been wont to rant upon when the mood strikes. It bothers me deeply to realise that so much of what I say has been falling through. While some of that has been curbed by my dealing with my habitual excuses, I think much more could, and should, be addressed by me watching what I say. Why not state the conditions I know of? Why am I so reluctant to say, if I have time I will do X, or if I hear back from so and so we can do this, or if I’m up for it I can go, and so forth? Probably because I think people want a defined answer (I know I want defined answers), and I want to please people and avoid disappointing anyone, so I give answers that in retrospect were quite unwise and ill-considered. Not that I answer hastily, but I do not take myself and my other commitments and my needs and the simple fact that there are only so many hours in the day into consideration, not sufficiently. Gradual improvement is happening, but I don’t want to say it’s all good until I know this sticks for a good, long while. Sometimes a defined answer can’t be given, and therefore shouldn’t be given. I want to start holding myself to this.

Of course, there is a balance to all these things that I am keeping in mind. I do not, as I mentioned, want to start assuming everything others say is wrong or so flawed as to be untrue all the time. People get things right and follow through on commitments; perhaps less often than I personally would like, but they do. I need to make sure that my acknowledgement of my limits doesn’t devolve again into an excuse marathon, and that I do my level best to do that to which I have committed myself. And where appropriate, to meet the expectations of others as best I can, even if I am not initially sure that I can give that defined answer.

That was one of the things that made me a good submissive before, because I would push myself to my limits, I would prioritise, I would follow through, I would obey as best as I possibly could, and I loved every single second of it. And darn it, I was damn good at it, too. I don’t like that I set that down a while ago, somewhere, and neglected to pick it back up.

I want to be that person again. At least, I want to retain that part of who I was, there are other things I’m fine with leaving in the past. Hence my current attempts to re-train my mind to be constantly aware of limits and choosing reasonable degrees of trust, rather than either giving it all right out the gate or withholding it all because I’ve set myself up to be hurt and disappointed so much. Not to excuse untrustworthy behaviour, but to recognise it and accept as a reality, and live accordingly, not getting bent out of shape all the time over it.

So in sum, I need an incredible amount of grace.

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